Scam Alert: This car's a steal

06/08/2008 3:24 AM

06/08/2008 3:26 AM

THE SCAM: Escrow company online

HOW IT WORKS: Thanks to gas prices, many drivers might be shopping for a car with better gas mileage. But the Better Business Bureau of Central California is warning that a particular scam is aimed at such shoppers. Car buyers first are attracted by an ad for a vehicle that's hundreds or even thousands of dollars below Kelly Blue Book value. After responding to the ad, shoppers get an e-mail that accepts an offer and instructs the buyer to send the money to a third-party escrow company, often by Western Union or MoneyGram. After the money is sent, the buyer never hears from the seller again, and is out whatever he or she paid. In some cases, the con artist may set up a phony escrow company site to convince the buyer.

WHAT'S AT STAKE: Your money

HOW TO BEAT IT: If you're unsure about an escrow company, check with an independent organization such as the BBB for a profile and rating.

Contact Bee staff writer Ben van der Meer at or 578-2331.

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